How to motivate anybody WITHOUT pressuring them

I get this question all the time: "Shahab, I am a teacher/coach/manager. How can I motivate my students/clients/employees?” 


Motivation has been a topic of interest studied by scientists for ages. One of the most knowledgeable scientists in this field is Dr. Edward Deci, who makes a very important point about intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. He believes, by default, intrinsic motivation is always more effective than extrinsic motivation in the long run. 


Look at young children. They have an inner motivation to learn and a natural curiosity to explore. But when you look at older students, you see that this motivation has disappeared for some reason.


A lot of this goes back to the effect of reward and punishment in killing intrinsic motivation.  External factors leading to extrinsic motivation, i.e. any type of reward and punishment, are usually only effective in the short term. But in the long run, it is the intrinsic motivation (that comes from within) that leads to success.


How can we strengthen people’s intrinsic motivation? According to Dr. Deci, that’s where autonomy comes in. When a person chooses to do a task out of their own free will, her intrinsic motivation awakens. But when a person feels under the control of external factors (such as reward or punishment by a teacher, coach or principal), then research shows she will have weaker motivation and will show lower responsibility.


If your motivation is weak and you’ve been procrastinating on an important task for a while, ask yourself: “Did I choose this goal/task on my own or was it under the control of external factors?” Ponder this: Did you choose to invest time, energy and capital in this goal out of your own free will? A boarder perspective: Might you be working on your goals simply because of external pressure coming from parents, peers or culture? 


Autonomy is not everything, but it is definitely a crucial factor in sustaining your motivation.


What do YOU think?


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